Nats to keep share of conventional forces

WHILE the SNP will be delighted to see Trident missiles heading south, the party is determined to get its share of UK conventional forces and military assets.

The MoD employs 25,000 people in Scotland and controls more than 300 sites, including HM Naval Base Clyde and air bases at Lossiemouth, Kinloss and Leuchars. Scotland's contribution to the UK's defence establishment supports thousands more jobs in the defence industry.

And, significantly, the MoD reports that some 12% of British soldiers class themselves as being of Scottish nationality.

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The Nationalists have made little secret of their intention to take as much as possible of their share in land, hardware and personnel. Establishments from Faslane to the network of recruiting offices across the country would transfer from MoD ownership into the hands of the new "Scottish Defence Force" (SDF).

Scots serving in the British armed forces would be "given the opportunity to transfer to the SDF".

An SNP-led Scotland would withdraw from Nato due to the party's anti-nuclear stance, although the nation would continue to co-operate on conventional operations.

However, in another significant alteration to the nation's current military strategy, the SNP foresees Scotland's forces being constructed around a "defensive posture" - meaning the SDF would be maintained at a level necessary to guarantee the defence of the new independent nation, rather than a larger force capable of offensive expeditions overseas.

In line with the limited posture, an independent Scotland would also give up any interest in Britain's overseas bases, "including those in the few remaining UK dependent territories".

The transfer of these establishments back to the former UK during independence negotiations is also regarded as a significant money-saving option.

And, while more ambitious nations look to world powers as the model for their forces, the SNP is content to compare Scotland with Norway.

"If you look at the overall level of the Norwegian defence complement, it is roughly the same size as we have in our country," a party spokesman explained. "It would be very easy to accommodate a force of that size in an independent Scotland."

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The SNP proposes that the SDF "shift their emphasis from nuclear weapons to conventional defence forces with the resources required in modern peacekeeping exercises. Other small countries have shown the way on this," the spokesman added. "For instance, since 1956 Finland has placed more than 35,000 peacekeeping troops at the disposal of the UN."

Military experts last night cast doubt over the party's chances of pushing through rapid change, even if it was returned as the majority party at Holyrood.

Michael Codner, director of the Military Sciences Department at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), said the secessionist government would have to strike a "whole range of deals and treaties" in the military realm before it was allowed to strike off on its own.

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